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Oh, you Kids!

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William H. Bonney (born William Henry McCarty, Jr. c.1859-1861 – July 14, 1881), also known as William Antrim and Kid Antrim, was a 19th-century gunman who participated in the Lincoln County War in New Mexico and became a frontier outlaw in the American West. According to legend, he killed twenty-one men, but it is generally believed he only killed eight. He killed his first man on August 17, 1877, at around 17 years of age.

At the time Bonney was killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett at Pete Maxwell’s place at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, the nickname of “Billy, The Kid” (note the comma and capitalization used back then) had just started being applied to him. He was usually just called The Kid. The usage of calling a young person a “kid” was known for hundreds of years prior to Bonney, but it seems to have only become common around the 1840s.

In the world of comic books, there have been a great many Kids. In a quick search, I found a few for you:
Colorado Kid
Cheyenne Kid
Arizona Kid
Durango Kid
Cisco Kid
Apache Kid
Sundance Kid
Reno Kid
Two-Gun Kid
Kid Slade
Kid from Dodge City
Frisco Kid
Kid Cowboy
Presto Kid
Texas Kid
Ringo Kid
Oklahoma Kid
Cotton Kid
Hollywood Kid
Star Kid
Outlaw Kid
Kid Montana
Western Kid
Rawhide Kid
Fargo Kid
Kid Colt
Billy the Kid
Stardust Kid
Lemonade Kid
Dynamite Kid

Many of these were published by Timely/Atlas/Marvel, and they also put out a comic book called Tough Kid Squad during WWII:

Tough Kid Squad

In Italy, a comic book publisher printed a version of the Superman character, using old American comic book art (at least in the couple of examples I have) and called him the Nembo Kid:

Nembo Kid

Nembo Kid translates, I believe, to “Cloud Man,” and that’s a little odd sounding to me. Maybe it plays better in Italian. Because Superman’s “S” shield wouldn’t work for a guy who’s name started with an N, the Italian publisher just blanked it out and colored the empty pentagon shape yellow or sometimes red. I really liked how that Italian comic publisher colored Batman. Since they were playing with Batman’s colors, they could easily have fixed what I considered Robin’s biggest defect: his naked legs. Just color his legs green, yellow, or red, for God’s sake. But, nooooo:

Batman Nembo Kid

There was also a Quality Comics character named Kid Eternity. He had a particularly lame costume and his power was that a fat angel could help him summon real and fictional folks from the past to help in his adventures. I don’t much care for Kid Eternity, though his stories usually had some great art, which was true of all the Quality Comics line. After an impressive Golden Age run with great characters like the Blackhawks, Plastic Man, the Spirit, and tons of others, their publisher, Busy Arnold, packed it up in the early 1950s. He sold his characters to DC Comics and retired to Naples, Florida. Had I known, of course, that he was living in Naples I would have looked him up!!!

Kid Eternity

Other “Kid” characters, like Kid Flash, came and went, but the Western comic books with their army of Kids are what we’re here for today. Enjoy these great covers!

Great posture was as important as skill with a six-gun for this kid:

Rawhide Kid

Of all the Atlas/Marvel Western kids, none had a better costume than the Ringo Kid:

Ringo Kid

Painted comic book covers weren’t common in old comics, and I never liked them. They just seemed jarring to me when used for a throwaway art form:

Kid Cowboy

Cisco Kid

Billy the Kid made it into comic books a couple of times. In Fawcett Comic’s version, he was a goat:

Fawcett Billy the Kid

Later, as published by the abysmally written, printed, and, said some, Mafia-connected Charlton Comics, he was a human, though out of register on the interior pages. I despised Charlton Comics; even if the art was good, the crap stories and bottom-of-the-barrel printing offended me:

Charlton Bill the Kid

Here are some other kids from the West.

Kid Colt

Two Gun Kid

Kid Montana

Texas Kid

Kid From Dodge City

Arizona KidEXCITING UPDATE!

Can’t believe it’s been a year since I posted to my blog. I blame myself. Anyway, if you keep up with the news, you’ll have heard that a third, previously unknown photo of Billy the Kid has come to light. It shows him, of all things, playing croquet in 1878 with his pals at their hideout in New Mexico. It’s estimated to bring $5 million at auction, but you can see it here for free!

Billy Croquet 1

Billy is shown on the right in this closeup of the 4″x5″ tintype. Since it’s a tintype, the left-to-right is flopped, as in the original of the photo at the top of this blog entry. I corrected the left-to-right then, but am too lazy this evening.

Billy-Croquet-2

But wait; there’s more! Here’s a Billy the Kid comic book cover from a series published by Toby Comics in the early 1950s:

Toby Billy the Kid

And, finally, a Durango Kid cover from the long-running series published by Magazine Enterprises:

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Small-print edition!

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From our friends at Shorpy.com comes this fascinating image of a young woman working in the big city in 1956. Notice the book under her manuscript and the hand-held magnifier next to it.

NYC Career Girl, 1956I suspect the book in the photo above is a variant of the Compact Oxford English dictionary. The one I have is from the 1970s and the pages are set up a little differently. The magnifier that came with my COED is the same as in the Shorpy.com photo.

Because the full OED is 20 volumes, the compact editions are composed of multiple pages reduced so that several pages fit onto a single page, if you follow me. That makes the looking glass essential to reading the entries. Even with the pages crammed in so tiny, my COED is still a bulky two volumes.

OED

Here’s a photo from the Web showing a modern-day COED. The looking glass or magnifier provided with the books nowadays seems to be a nifty round one with no handle.

Compact OED

An amazing resource for us word nerds.

My favorite dictionary for just reading—and you know you’ve got it bad when you collect and, yes, read old dictionaries—is my hardback facsimile of Noah Webster’s first American dictionary, as published in 1828. It’s fun to see how our language has changed since Webster’s day.

American Dictionary of the English Language

 

The Quest: A journal that likes fountain pens!

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It’s that time of year again, when I search for an office journal that is fountain-pen friendly!

Journal with Fountain Pen

As the photo below shows, bleed-through is an annoying problem, as I use both sides of the paper and I also write with medium, wet-writing nibs (usually Sheaffer or Parkers). So please wish me luck on this important quest. My current office journal is nice, but the bleed-through drives me nuts (please; no remarks about what a short little drive that is).

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The notebook I’m currently using is a Gallery Leather Desk Planner 9-1/2″ x 7-1/4″ journal. It has detailed color maps of the world, important toll-free number and website info, and is printed on a pretty cream-colored smooth paper. The leather cover is thin and bendable, which I like, and the pages are gilt-edged, which adds a classy touch. But the bleed-through is a deal-breaker for me. Since I’ll be paying for my journal myself–no freebies at this blog–I won’t be reporting on a wide sample, but you’ll learn how my search progresses. Isn’t this exciting?!?!??!

UPDATE:

After exhaustive research—and I’m not kidding you—I opted for the Black n’ Red Executive Notebook, which is an 11-3/4″ x 8-1/2″ linen-lined hardcover journal with 192 gray-lined pages, 33 lines per page. These have sewn bindings and the pages show—at least with a Mont Blanc fine nib and my favorite Levenger amethyst ink—absolutely no bleed through in the little test I did on a back page. I won’t be using these—I got a couple from Amazon at about $15 a pop—until the new year rolls around, but I have high hopes! These also have color geographic and Metro maps, which are neat if not vital to the mission. They look understated, stylish, and businesslike, and there’s a little red ribbon for keeping track of what day you’re on. I’ll keep updating this blog entry as time goes on so keep an eye out for updates!

Do not hold in hand!

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blackcat firecrackers

Good advice from a package of vintage firecrackers. As kids, my friends and I loved setting off firecrackers. Nowadays, they aren’t something I mess with. My wife hates them, they frighten my dog Murphy, and I live in a state that prohibits their sale and use.

One of the coolest things about firecrackers was the always colorful and usually bizarre art on the packaging. Since almost all the firecrackers we saw were made in China, and there was little difference in the product, the labels were exotic to our eyes and a big factor in which brands we bought.

The only brand I can remember now is Black Cat. So that art comes first in this little retrospective. The other labels came from an informative online article about how the firecrackers were made and sold back in the 1950s and ’60s. Enjoy!

firecrackers_americaneagle-1 firecrackers_anchor firecrackers_blackbat firecrackers_bobcobills firecrackers_bopeep firecrackers_captainkidd firecrackers_catsbrand firecrackers_colt firecrackers_dragontiger firecrackers_fishbrand firecrackers_geogiacrackers firecrackers_giraffe firecrackers_happyman firecrackers_hundredbirds firecrackers_jester firecrackers_junglebrand firecrackers_kingkong firecrackers_ladybrand firecrackers_monkeys firecrackers_nacha firecrackers_navybrand firecrackers_peacock2 firecrackers_redinjun firecrackers_rocket firecrackers_santaclaus firecrackers_spacemissile firecrackers_superatomic firecrackers_typewriter WycMi

There’s big money in television, or, how Jimmy got his new bicycle

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The above ad ran in small-publisher comic books in the early 1950s, when TV was the new amazing thing. After decades of getting their mass-market entertainment from movies and radio, TV was just astonishing to most Americans. The shows broadcast in those days were primitive by our standards, but hey; the novelty of the medium trumped finesse in execution.

We’ll save that discussion for later, as today we’re examining coin banks with a television motif. The idea was that your friends and relatives would be so smitten by the TV bank that they couldn’t resist dropping their money into it, thus fronting you the money for your new bike or pony or, if you were a smart kid, shares of IBM or Polaroid stock.

I love the copy in this ad. The art is so-so, from the Bazooka Joe school of kid gangs with funny hats and funnier hair. The text, though, is something wonderful.

LIGHTS UP! LIKE BIGGEST, COSTLIEST TELEVISION SETS! Well, true, if lighting up is what you look to a television set for. The heart of a TV is a large and educated light bulb. Most people, though, feel there’s more to the equation.

A couple of the bullet points are strangely worded:
HITS EVERY TELEVISION HIGH . . . FIGHTS AND ALL! Boxing was a major draw in the early days of TV. It moved, you see.

THRILLS YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS POP-EYED! I can’t imagine how the copywriter came up with this one. I don’t think I’d want to be thrilled pop-eyed; it sounds like it might hurt.

IT’S A HONEY IN EVERY DETAIL! I have to agree, I suppose.

Here are the six little pictures that light up on this bank when you drop in your (or your mom’s) coin, in the words of the ad:
• a fight
• a hilarious cartoon
• a tense rodeo scene
• a swell skater
• a dramatic dance team, and
• a circus clown with his trick dog!

The six exciting pictures pretty much cover what TV was all about in those days!

Thanks to the miracle of eBay, we can see this and other great TV banks from the mid 20th century. Here’s the bank touted in the ad, and this example was going for about $160:

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A nice-looking unit. I guess it would hold a lot of coins.

A closeup of the all-important picture, showing the tense rodeo scene. I hope your eyes are still in your head after seeing that:
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Here’s another type of TV bank. The low-resolution picture shows a little girl or a puppet or a doll with a curious parachute-like skirt. It’s a nice-looking bank, though:

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This example is from a Danish eBay auction. The bank has just one scene: a speeding cowboy (see the velocity lines coming off the legs of his horse?) chasing and attempting to rope another horse. Note that there are three slots on this one for the various sized coins that might find their way into your TV bank. Not sure that is a compelling feature; one big slot would work for all the coins and they’re going to get jumbled and commingled once they go through the slot anyway.
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Some of the TV banks celebrate particular TV shows of the era. Here’s a Romper Room TV bank, with perhaps the world’s most insincere clown:
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This TV bank shows an oddly blasé Howdy Doody, who was a hugely popular marionette from those times. This appears to be one of those ceramic banks that you had to smash to get your coins. I didn’t like that concept:
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Our last TV bank looks to me as though it’s a repurposed radio bank, with a black-and-white paper photo pasted over the radio dial to make it look like a TV:
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So find yourself a TV bank and start saving up those coins; you know you want to impress the gang with your new bike!!!

Top Ten facts you didn’t know about Peeps!*

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10. Peeps were created by then-governor of Virginia Thomas Jefferson, a confirmed vegetarian, in 1781. Having had great success with his introduction of the French Fry to the colonies, Mr. Jefferson took some homemade marshmallow, formed it into sticks, dipped the sticks into a bath of sweetened lemon juice, and then into granulated sugar, thus forming something oddly similar to today’s Peeps. Forming the candy into a chick shape came much later, during the Truman presidency.

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9. It takes 18,489 Peeps to fill the inside of a new-model Volkswagen Beetle. The old models of the Beetle, discontinued in 1977, held only 14,570 Peeps. The Super Beetle model held 138 more Peeps than the original VW Beetle.

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8. Actress and comedian Sofia Vergara has never eaten a single Peep.**

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7. The Peep is the only candy represented by a marble statue in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. Created by students of the Wilfred Brimloon Junior High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1967, this one-inch-high Peep is made of Vermont marble and can be seen behind the much larger statue of Kentucky’s Henry Clay.

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6. Noted pop singer Elvis Presley’s favorite sandwich was peanut butter and bacon topped with Peeps between two slices of toasted Wonder Bread.

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5. A baseball bat made of compressed chocolate Peeps was used by Baltimore Orioles outfielder Ronald Basset in a 1987 game against the Boston Red Sox. In his at-bat in the crucial ninth inning of a 4-4 game, with two Birds on base, Basset connected with a slow-speed pitch thrown by Sox hurler Clint Alsop. The ball embedded into the head of the bat, and while Red Sox catcher Walt Brulander and umpire Dennis Wall frantically looked for it, Basset rounded the bases and scored. Look it up!

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4. Peeps hold the honor of having been the only candy ever eaten on the moon by both American and Chinese astronauts. The legend that Neil Armstrong accidentally dropped a Peep onto the lunar surface from the Eagle landing vehicle prior to returning to Earth cannot be proved, though it is entirely possible.

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3. In a 1992 experiment at MIT, engineering students held a contest to find out how thin a Peep could be flattened. Unbelievably, they were able to flatten a single Peep to a thickness of 14 microns, and the Peep, thus flattened, was large enough to cover their football field with a tiny bit left over.

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2. Little discussed by Peeps maker Just Born, Inc., is their ill-fated venture marketing a Peeps version of a Pez Dispenser. The Peeps Hatcher, as it was called when introduced in 1971, sold for $3.99 and came with eight Peeps. Its ungainly size and propensity to gum up combined to make it unsuccessful in the marketplace, though examples on eBay have been known to fetch hundreds of dollars.

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1. Actor Marlon Brando had a Peep in each of his cheeks for his iconic film role as the aging Don in the Godfather. It was said the multiple retakes of his scenes, combined with his love of the marshmallow-based candy, resulted in panicky runs to several Ralph’s supermarkets for supplemental Peeps and substantial production delays in filming. Brando tried to replicate this unusual technique in his Superman movie turn by using Twizzler candy sticks, but the results were unremarkable.

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*Mainly because these facts are not true; I just made them up. Peeps are a registered trademark of Just Born, Inc., Bethlehem, PA, USA. No offense to Just Born or their fine products is intended.

**She eats them in multiples.

G.I. Combat! Vietnam, Electric Beanie and a Guy Named Joe

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Never having been a big fan of war comics, I almost didn’t download this comic book, G.I. Combat #16, from August of 1954. The cover art by Dick Dillan and Chuck Cuidera caught my eye, as they were the team who drew and inked my favorite Blackhawk comic books, which are on the periphery, I suppose, of war comics. The other almost-war comic I love is Don Winslow of the Navy, which was originally published by Fawcett.

This G.I. Combat issue features the first Vietnam-based war story I’ve seen: “Airfield in Hell.” Of course, at that time, Vietnam was known as French Indo-China. Here’s the splash page for that story:

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Following the story is this zany ad for a 98¢ electric Brainstorm Beanie; I bet the freckled hipster shown wearing it would be even more smug if it were a solar- instead of battery-powered Brainstorm Beanie:

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And, at the end of the issue is a poignant ad for the Charles Atlas bodybuilding course.

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An unfortunate fellow, Joe, is humiliated in front of his girlfriend. In a moment of fury, he sends off for the Charles Atlas course and later becomes a buff and powerful force to be reckoned with. How much later is the question that doesn’t get answered in this ad, though the copy says it will happen “almost before you realize it.” That’s a very carefully worded sentence.

It can’t happen too quickly to suit Joe, I’m sure, but revenge is a dish best eaten cold. Since Joe, his girlfriend, and the white-haired lout who gets his comeuppance are all wearing the same outfits in this sequence, I’m guessing it occurred in one summer.

I have a skinny cousin who took that course and I didn’t expect it to do much for him. I saw him many years later and was stunned at what a brawny fellow he had turned into; he looked like Superman. But that was years, not months, and he also had served 20 years in the Marines.

Two years after this comic was published by Quality Comics, their stable of features was sold to DC Comics and Quality bit the dust. Blackhawk and G.I. Combat were two comics (a love comic was a third) that DC chose to continue publishing. The publisher of Quality, Busy Arnold, retired to Naples and I wish I had known that before he died; I would have looked him up!

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